Mayor Charles C. Kokoros reports that the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit issued a decision earlier today vacating the air permit issued to Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) relative to the proposed natural gas compressor station set to be built in Weymouth.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) had given federal approval for the construction of the compressor station as part of Algonquin’s Atlantic Bridge Project. However, that approval was conditioned on Algonquin obtaining the air permit from DEP. When Algonquin reported to FERC that the air permit had been obtained, FERC allowed Algonquin to begin construction of the compressor station.
As grounds for Wednesday’s decision, the Court found that DEP did not follow its own established procedures for assessing whether an electric motor was the Best Available Control Technology (BACT) for the project. BACT is a standard used in air pollution control that helps ensure a facility and its air contaminant emissions will not cause violations of federal air quality regulations.
According to Wednesday’s Court decision, DEP did not satisfactorily analyze and document the relative costs and benefits of using either an electric motor or a gas turbine to operate the compressor station. Braintree and the other project opponents had argued that the use of an electric motor as part of the project, in place of the proposed gas turbine, would eliminate all emissions of air pollutants from the operation of the compressor station. Having found that DEP’s analysis was inadequate to support the air permit approval, the Court called DEP’s final decision to exclude the electric motor option “arbitrary and capricious.” Therefore, the Court vacated the air permit and remanded the issue back to DEP. The remand will allow DEP to reopen the administrative proceedings, take additional evidence, and redo the analysis of the alternative technologies.
All other issues were resolved in favor of DEP. Therefore, the Court ordered that the remand proceeding is to be limited to the issue of selecting the appropriate power technology. The Court directed that DEP expedite its review and reach a new decision within 75 days.
Since the Court has now vacated DEP’s air permit approval and is requiring further administrative review, the air permit is no longer in effect, and the FERC condition requiring DEP’s approval for the compressor station has not been met.
Therefore, Braintree intends to join with the other municipalities in demanding that FERC order the immediate cessation of construction work on the station.
“The Town has continued to raise concerns regarding the public health and safety impacts the construction of the compressor station will have on our residents and remain committed to stopping construction,” Mayor Kokoros said.
United States Court of Appeals For the First Circuit (PDF)
United States Court of Appeals For the First Circuit Judgement (PDF)